SEATTLE – If it all seemed too good to be true, Seattle Mariners fans, that’s because it was.
The once-left-for-dead Mariners were within one win of sweeping the mighty New York Yankees, only to see it come crashing down in a disastrous third inning.
Left-hander Jason Vargas got touched up for the second start in a row, aging right fielder Ichiro Suzuki continued to struggle at the plate, and the Mariners’ run of success came to a thunderous end by way of a 7-1 loss at Safeco Field on Sunday.
Vargas went just three innings, allowing six runs on five hits and four walks, to fall to 3-3 on the season. After yielding a total of one earned run in his first three starts this month, Vargas has gotten tagged for 11 earned runs over 72/3 innings of his last two starts.
“He was behind in the count a lot (Sunday), and he wasn’t quite aggressive,” Wedge said.
Vargas admitted that facing the Yankees’ lineup was “a bit of a struggle” Sunday afternoon.
His worst inning came in the third, when the Yankees sent all nine batters to the plate and scored five runs on four hits. The second out of that inning came on a put-out at home plate, after third baseman Chone Figgins scooped up a ground ball and threw to catcher Chris Gimenez, who made a nifty block of the plate to get baserunner Derek Jeter. After that play, the Yankees rattled off a single, walk, double and triple to push across five runs before Vargas struck out his final batter of the inning and the game on his 82nd pitch.
Due to a solo home run that Nick Swisher drilled over the left-field fence an inning earlier, the Mariners found themselves in a 6-0 hole. The deficit got as big as 7-0 before Seattle stopped the bleeding with a sixth-inning solo home run by Justin Smoak.
In front of a surprisingly pro-Yankees crowd at Safeco Field, the Mariners couldn’t get much of anything going offensively. New York starter CC Sabathia was in control for most of the game, with the slight exception of a rare Seattle threat in the bottom of the fifth.
In that inning, two walks and a Jack Wilson single allowed the M’s to load the bases with one out and leadoff hitter Suzuki at the plate. Suzuki grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Suzuki went 0 for 4 to continue his struggle at the plate. He is 1 for 14 during the current homestand and is batting .204 in May.
Even before Sunday’s game, Wedge seemed frustrated by the 37-year-old right fielder’s struggles at the plate.
“I think he’s trying to do too much,” Wedge said before the game. “Ichiro’s a tough one for me. Very unique style, and it’s tough to dissect. He knows himself better than anybody.”
Wedge went on to say that the two hitters atop his order – Suzuki and Figgins – have been a source of offensive frustration as of late.
“Safe to say, we’re keeping a close eye on both those guys right now,” Wedge said before the duo went a combined 0 for 8 in Sunday’s loss.
The Mariners didn’t score on Sabathia (6-3) until the bottom of the sixth, when Smoak lined a 94-mph fastball into the Seattle bullpen in left-center field for a solo shot. That marked Smoak’s team-leading seventh home run of the season and his first since May 13.
Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while throwing 118 pitches over eight innings. In his last four starts against Seattle, Sabathia has allowed just three earned runs in 29 innings.
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